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Passing Through Our Tests

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He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. Deuteronomy 8:15-16

The Torah portion for this week is Eikev, which means "therefore" or "heel," from Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 49:14-51:3.

In 1924, a group of mountain climbers set out to conquer Mount Everest, whose summit had yet to be reached. Two climbers made it farther than the rest but then mysteriously disappeared. Somewhere close to the top, they were overcome by the elements and died. After the failed attempt to reach the summit, the rest of the party returned to London where they gave a briefing about the ill-fated adventure.

One of the climbers gave a review and then turned to a huge photograph of Everest that was mounted on the wall behind him. He said, "Everest, we tried to conquer you once, but you overpowered us. We tried to conquer you a second time, but again you were too much for us. But, Everest, I want you to know that we are going to conquer you, for you can't grow any bigger, and we can!"

And so it is with many of the challenges in our own lives - they aren't getting any smaller, but they aren't getting any larger either. On the other hand, we can grow and change in order to overcome them.

In this week's reading, as Moses continued his instructive review of the last 40 years, he recalled how God " . . . led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you."

In short, Moses reviewed the trials and tests that Israel had to pass through in the desert. They went through hunger, thirst, and danger. We also know that they made 42 stops during those years, some lasting only hours, others that lasted decades. They never knew when they would travel, where they were going, or when they would get to rest. But through it all, they grew as a people and became worthy of entering the Promised Land where others before them had failed.

To me, the most instructive segment of these two verses is the last part: " . . . to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you." This is where Moses pointed out the purpose of all the tests in life - both of the Israelites and our own - is that things will be good for us in the end.

Every test is an opportunity for positive growth. Every trial is a chance to shine. Every challenge brings out potential we never knew we possessed. May we, with God's help, come through all our trials stronger, better, and greater than ever.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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